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She's a Knockout!

A History of Women in Fighting Sports

L.A. Jennings

Women’s fighting sports have a rich and storied history. As far back as the eighteenth century, female fighters battled at varying levels, from county fairs to elite events. With new opportunities to compete in legitimate arenas—from the Olympics and the Golden Gloves to wrestling tournaments and Ultimate Fighting Championships—women are now able to fight in ways their predecessors never could. And though women today still often face the same derision their predecessors faced, their fortitude and determination has earned them respect from much of the fighting community.

In She’s a Knockout!: A History of Women in Fighting Sports, L.A. Jennings chronicles the stories of these strong and resilient women—including wrestlers, mixed martial arts competitors, and boxers—and the different issues they have encountered. Throughout the narrative, Jennings situates the stories of the female fighters in the culture of their time, revealing how women were often seen as objects of spectacle and ridicule before finally garnering admiration in the fighting world. The women featured in this book include England’s “Championess” Elizabeth Stokes of the 1720s, American wrestler Cora Livingstone in the 1930s, and early MMA great Debi Purcell in the 2000s.

Featuring historical and contemporary photographs and exclusive interviews with professional fighters, this book delivers an in-depth look into the struggles and triumphs of female fighters. Fans of fighting sports, sports historians, and those interested in the history of women in sports will find this a fascinating and illuminating read.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 222Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-3643-1 • Hardback • October 2014 • $40.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-3644-8 • eBook • October 2014 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
L. A. Jennings is a writer, scholar, and former fighter. She is the co-owner and head striking coach at a mixed martial arts gym, Train.Fight.Win.
Preface: The Origin Story
Introduction: Why We Fight
Chapter 1: Fighting in the Georgian and Victorian Eras
Chapter 2: American Women Join the Fight
Chapter 3: Fighting as a Spectacle
Chapter 4: The Fight to Fight
Chapter 5: MMA Goes Mainstream
About the Author
Some of us can remember when the general public’s only awareness of women fighting came through watching grainy images of the flamboyantly villainous Fabulous Moolah flickering across black-and-white TV screens. Today, both men’s and women’s mixed martial arts are in the mainstream, and women such as media darling Ronda Rousey can earn up to $250,000 per bout. Likewise, women’s freestyle wrestling debuted as an Olympic sport in 2004 and was joined by boxing in 2012. Here Jennings, a scholar specializing in feminist issues, popular culture, and American history, and a fighter in her own right, shows that women boxers and grapplers have actually had a long past, as she traces the evolution of the many varieties of women’s fighting from the 1700s to the present. Along the way, the author also examines women’s cultural roles over the years and their participation in sports of all kinds. VERDICT[I]t undoubtedly adds valuable insights into women’s role in sports and society.
Library Journal

A historical insight to the empowering movement of female fighting—the past, present and future. I love the personal fighter/promotion biographies. A MUST read for the FMMA/Combat sport fan.
Sam Wilson, MMA Matchmaker

Jennings cuts no corners in creating the most comprehensive collection of information on women's fighting history ever written. Writing from experience, she contributes a special point of view and appreciation for the sport, and lays the groundwork for much more history to come.
Josh Samman, UFC Middleweight Fighter, The Ultimate Fighter Semi-Finalist

The most complete history of women in the fight game that you will find. Fight writers who have mastered their subject as well as Jennings are rare, those who can communicate their knowledge as lucidly and entertainingly are even rarer.
Jack Slack, MMA journalist